Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

'No promises' over Northern Ireland council reform

Edwin Poots
Mr Poots set a deadline for councils to sign up to efficiency savings

The environment minister has said he cannot guarantee that 11 new councils will be created in NI in time for next year's local government elections.

Mr Poots was speaking after meeting with members of the NI Local Government Association (NILGA).

The meeting was held after Mr Poots set Thursday as a deadline for councils to agree to cost-cutting measures.

He has said plans to reduce the number of councils would be in jeopardy if this deadline was not met.

Mr Poots wants a single waste authority and business service as part of an efficiency drive.

Speaking after Thursday's meeting, which was held so NILGA could present their ideas to the minister, Mr Poots welcomed their proposals but said work still needed to be completed on the shake-up.

Last week, Mr Poots gave councils until 25 February to agree to the proposals and threatened to block plans to reduce the number of councils unless an agreement was reached.

There are currently 26 councils in Northern Ireland, but there are plans to reduce this number to 11 by 2011.

Last October, Mr Poots told the assembly the process of cutting councils would cost an extra £118m over a five-year period, but added that this would mean savings of £438m could be made over 25 years.

But, in a leaked letter obtained by the BBC in November, he warned his Northern Ireland Executive colleagues that time was running out to reach agreement.

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